NEW YORK—The top lot at Christie’s, Claude Monet’s Les Peupliers, 1891, sold within estimate for $22.5 million (estimate: $20 million/30 million) after a two-way bidding fight between Christie’s head of department Conor Jordan, and Ken Yeh, chairman of Christie’s Asia, both bidding for clients on the phone.
The painting had last appeared at auction a little over a decade ago, at Christie’s New York sale in November 2000, where it earned $7 million, the low end of the $7 million/10 million estimate. Of the 57 lots offered at Christie’s, 47 (or 82 percent) were sold. By value, the sale was 81 percent sold.
A new record was set for Maurice de Vlaminck, when his landscape Paysage de banlieue, 1905, sold for $22.5 million (estimate: $18 million/25 million) to Acquavella Galleries bidding through Jordan on the phone, after a protracted bidding war with former Christie’s department head Guy Bennett seated in the saleroom. When their respective bidders began competing in increments of $100,000 as the price hit $18 million—as opposed to the usual $500,000 bid increments that are typical at this price level—Christie’s auctioneer and honorary chairman Christopher Burge quipped, “this could take a while,” prompting laughter from the packed saleroom.
Not surprisingly, Pablo Picasso was a strong seller again, with Les femmes d’Alger, version L, 1955, selling for $21.4 million to a phone bidder, against competition from dealers Larry Gagosian and David Nahmad. And Femme assise au chapeau, 1961, sold for $4.3 million to a dealer on the phone, compared with a $3 million/4 million estimate.
Gagosian was also an underbidder on the second-highest Picasso lot, a unique steel cutout sculpture with black crayon, Homme au mouton, 1961, that sold for $7.1 million to a phone bidder (estimate: $4 million/6 million).
A new record was set for Maximilien Luce when Notre Dame de Paris, 1900, sold for $4.2 million to a private European buyer bidding via phone, clearing the $2 million/3 million estimate.
The Nahmads won Pierre Auguste-Renoir’s Portrait de Jeanne Samary, ca 1879-80, for $1.1 million, well under the $2 million/3 million estimate. Another Renoir, Baigneuse assise, vue de profil (Gabrielle), with an estimate of $3.5 million/4.5 million, failed to sell.
Other top-selling works at the sale included Le petit déjeuner, 1936, by Pierre Bonnard, which sold within expectations for $6.2 million, compared with an estimate of $6 million/9 million to a U.S. buyer, bidding by phone.
Le compotier (Nature morte), 1925, by Fernand Leger, sold for $5.1 million on an estimate of $3.5 million/4.5 million. Last offered at auction in November 1999 at Christie’s New York, the painting sold then for $750,000, compared with an estimate of $700,000/100,000.
Ettore e Andromaca, 1923, by Giorgio de Chirico, sold for $4.8 million, falling below the $5 million/7 million estimate.